When I was seventeen (it was a very good year), I applied for a job at Our Price Records in Golders Green, North London (where I grew up). In those days, young readers, one had to physically buy music on vinyl discs, cassette tapes or smaller metal compact discs. You would buy this physical media in shops having heard and liked the music contained therein on the radio or possibly Saturday morning television. I wanted to be the one selling that music and advising girls my age what to buy. Our Price in Golders Green was our local outlet, at that point a chain shop but previously a natty independent record store called Oliver Crombie.
I filled in the application form (elaborate for a simple shop counter position, if you ask me) and waited. The letter reply, flatly refusing me employment, began “Dear Mr. Crack…” At that point, I knew I hadn’t got the job. But it remains the most notable misspelling of my surname in my short time on this earth.
As far as I know, Kraitt is a made-up name. My paternal grandparents arrived in the East End of London as children in the early 1900s from Lodz in Poland. I’m not entirely sure how the family name changed from possibly Krett, Krettski or Krettska (as it was in Poland) at the point of arrival but it was apparently not unusual for names to change in this way. Unfortunately, because of the absolute destruction of records by the Nazis when Poland was occupied, we’re unlikely to find any family history back there – although my good friend Naomi Leon, genealogist at Research Roots (check her out at Research Roots), keeps asking if I want her to trace my family. She’s brilliant and I would highly recommend her services so I will set her the task one of these days.
If you take off one of our double Ts, our name becomes the most poisonous snake on the planet, the Krait, immortalised by the great Roald Dahl in the short story Poison. If you Google the name (with the correct spelling), search results are dominated by myself and my brother Steve (keen photographer and social media enthusiast at kraitt.com). There is also a Syrian academic based in the University of Vienna called Tyma Kraitt who I really ought to look up one of these days.
So I do possess an unusual surname. It is difficult to spell, leading to longer calls when booking restaurant than I would like. The struggles on the other end of the phone are still faintly amusing, and the misspellings raise a smile, but nothing tops Mr Crack. I’m pleased that this weirdly unspellable word will live on with our children, if only to aggravate people working in data entry for job application forms.
And there’s always fun to be had with nicknames. At school, they called us Kraitty and Milk or Beer (think about it). Coach Vic Darvey at Farnham Rugby calls my son the Kraittmeister General (which I like very much). My good friend Lucie Barat calls me Kraittanator (my personal favourite).
See you tomorrow for some more fun with names.